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  1. 1.1Introduction

Urbanization has become a powerful force throughout most of the world in the new millennium. This development has taken place very quickly and by historical standards comparatively recently Asia, Africa and Latin America (Abotutu, 2016: 52). High and sustained urban growth rates in these three major world regions are superimposed on existing urban populations that were until recently relatively modest in size (Abotutu, 2016). As a resulting of extreme limitations in real income, the increase in urban population in real income, the increase in urban population in the developing countries especially in Africa, has created enormous problems of infrastructure and service provision. These problems of infrastructure and service provision. These problems have most acutely impacted on the lves of the urban poor, whose numbers have swollen and whose household at least in Africa, Latin America and South Asia suffered a deterioration in the standard of living during the 1990s (Abotutu, 2014).

Neither the exceptional growth of cites of the developing countries, nor the deterioration in living conditions of the urban poor have been adequately recognized in the development programmes of major international agencies. Consequently, weak municipal technical management, dwindling resources and the pressure placed on resources and urban services due to population growth, led to severe degradation of the urban environment. These degradation as pointed out by Abotutu (2015) were more severe on urban ecosystems.

Urbanization seeks to achieve quality sustainable development in harmony with the protection of environmental quality. Providing an effective housing policy framework where the natural environment and vegetation I s not attired constitutes one of the major instruction requirement (Jiboye, 2015).

Urbanization which refers to the expansion in the proportion of a population living in urban areas, is one of the major social transportations sweeping the global world in react times. It represent the movement of people from rural areas to urban areas with population growth resulting to urban migration. It represent the movement of people from rural areas to urban areas with population growth resulting to urban migration. Since the city is regarded as the engine of growth that proper’s national economic development, the effects and problems emanating from this population here as have undoubtedly constituted critical challenges to the vegetation of the region.

Although, studies have shown that the problem of vegetation disturbance is universal, it s however more critical in less developed countries including Nigeria (Misilu et al, 2010; Akhmat and Bochan, 2010; UN, 2005; 2006; 2014; World Bank, 2008; Aina 2015; Lawanson 2015; 2014, and Olotuah and Bobadoye, 2012).

The challenge of vegetation degradation is the increasing urban population, particularly that the poor is becoming more critical in the urban areas of less developed countries, where an exposure expansion of the urban population due to a high population growth rate and massive rural-urban drift has compounded the vegetation degradation situation. Nigeria has been no exception to this trend as it has one of the highest urban growth rates in the world of the highest urban growth rates in the world (Lawason, 2015). Not only is the country experiencing one of the fastest rates of urbanization in the world, its experience has also been unique in scale, its pervasiveness and historical antecedent. This process has resulted in a very dense network of urban centres (Aina, 2015).

One major challenge militating against sustainable vegetation ecosystem and urban development in most developing countries is that of spontaneous and uncontrolled urbanization. It has been observed that rapid growth in urbanization is characteristics of the developing countries and this has been particularly since the 1950s (Misilu et al, 2010). It has also been observed by okoye (2009) that rapid urbanization and poor economic growth have compounded the problems of vegetation degradation in the environment of Nigeria. Since Abraka became a fast growing urban centre in 2005 (Akinbode and Ugbomeh, 2006), the need to study and investigate the vegetation (especially in the rainforest environment where the study areas is located) influenced by urbanization had risen. This is because urbanization to a great extent has a negative impact on the vegetation of place.

Varshiney (2013) pointed out that as countries continue to urbanize, Westernize and Civilize, the vegetation especially those in the rainforest environment will be in turn altered and degraded over time learning the environment bare, thereby prone to environmental hazards. The influence of human activities (such as bush-burning, construction of buildings, mining, lumbering and timbering) on the environment affects the vegetation of that area.

Bryan (2007) went father to explain that urbanization occurs as individuals, commercial and governmental efforts to reduce time and expenses in commuting and transportation while improving opportuntes for jobs, education, housing and transportation. He defined urbanization as the increase n population overtime. Urbanization according to him, has profound effects on the economy, ecology and lifestyles of the area’s inhabitants. Furthermore, he argued that most industrialized part of an urban area is most usually in or around the center of the town or city with little or no vegetation surrounding it.

Ankert (2015) simplified the definition of Bryan(2007) by saying that “Urbanization is the physical growth of urban areas as a result of rural-urban migration and even sub-urban concentration into cities, particularly, the very largest ones”. Urbanization is not merely a modern phenomenon, but a rapid and historic scale, where predominantly village culture is being rapidly replaced by urban culture. These village culture is characterized by common bloodlines, intimate relationships and communal behavior whereas reverse is the case in urban culture (Grant, 2008). Urbanization is not simply increasing the number of urban resident or expanding the areas of cities, more importantly, it’s about a complete change from rural to urban style in terms of vegetation pattern, industry structure, employment, living environment and social security. Urbanization according to Grand (2008) and Varshney (2013) can either be planned and/or referred as an organic urbanization.

They opined that it is often analyzed without any spatially explicit framework. Few of the environmental disadvantages of urbanization are reflected in the economic incentives that drive urban development. There is also a considerable variation in the levels and rates is also a considerable variatism in the levels and rates of urbanization and in the distribution of population among settlements of different size (Gordon et al, 2007).

They added that urbanization will continue at an unprecedented speed and scale. The country at large has adopted it as the way to further modernize itself and improve the livelihood of its residents but still has a negative impact on the vegetation of the environment.

Outstanding variety in the human habitat is created by differences in the vegetation cover from pace ton place (Kendall et al, 2007). Thus, vegetation can be defined as the plant life or the forms, structure, spatial extent or any other species botanical or geographic characteristics. It is broader than the term flora which refers exclusively to species composition, but vegetation can and often does refer to a wider range of spatial scales than that term does, including scales at large as the global primeval redwood forest, coastal mangrove stands, sphagnum bogs desert soil crust roadside weed patches, wheat fields, cultivated gardens and lawns, all are encompassed by the term vegetation which literally means the earth’s flora.

According to Monk-house 92004), vegetation is defined as the living layer of flora which covers much of the land surface forming an important part of the physical environment. It is a major component of the Biosphere, the word vegetation is a broad term that is used to specify the floristic composition of the ecosystem. Vegetation is usually described by reference to its flora or floristic (species) composition and its structural characteristics. The most abundant species in any plant community which also exercises the greatest influence on the inhabitant is referred to as the dominant, while other species are secondary.

From a global perspective, the importance of the tropical rainforest cannot be over emphasized, the tropical rainforest is a large reservoir of both plant and animal diversity. From time immemorial, the vegetation of the earth’s surface has been disturbed since creation by the activities of man, such as farming, wild bush fires, lumbering, deforestation, building of domestic houses and industrial one’s some of these activities are inevitable, if man is to dwell on the earth surface, and he has to clear the native vegetation so that he can carry out his activities which are multifarious in nature, the clearance of the forest for activities is a genuine process for man to get food for substance of life.

Lumbering is one of the problems of vegetation degradation, the action by man here is inevitable because trees fell from the forest are used in erecting structures in our homes and industries, most structures we see in our cities would not have been standing today without the wood from the forest. The forest is exploited to make most of the structures in our homes, factories and the landscape standing. The tress are constantly been out down without making any effort at replacing the cut trees through replanting. The trees are constantly been cut down without making any effort at replacing the cut trees through replanting. The action of men on the vegetation from attaining maturity not just in Nigeria but in tropical West Africa, generally the tropical characteristics of a true rainforest vegetation as described by Richard. (2002) and Hopkins (20040 are disappearing from the vegetation map of most of the southern part of Nigeria. Remnants of the true rainforest vegetation in Nigeria can only be found along swampy river courses, on scared and evil forest and in forest reserves. From the foregoing, it has been established that man disturb vegetation in diverse ways, there is nowhere in the world that vegetation is not removed before any meaningful human activity is to take place.

          However, in Abraka, urbanization has resulted in massive increase of problems, such as vegetation degradation, obesity, township life, especially in modern urban slums. Such modern urban slums in developing nations are certainly immune to neither pestilences nor climatic disturbances such as floods, yet continue to strongly attract migrants. Thus, as an area gets slowly urbanized there is need to study its vegetation characteristics before they are completely militated by the modern trend of human population explosion, human and industrial activities as well as get acquainted with its rural environment conditions in relation to its rural surrounding centres. It is against this background that this research attempts to examine the effects of urbanization on the rainforest vegetation in Abraka and it’s environs.

1.2     Statement of Research Problem

          In the past, man and nature have tried to acquire a symbiotic relationship which has proved difficult. Urbanization, a result of human activity has proved to be disastrous to native vegetation, this relationship has proven to unhealthily. From all indication, it is clear that man and his multifarious activities have over exploited the natural environment without considering its conservation or management. Man has forgotten so soon that failure to preserve the ecosystem will lead to its eventual disappearance from the earth surface.

          The removal of the rainforest vegetation from Abraka region has markedly affected the surface properties of the area and hence has modified the energy and water balance of the area.

          Vegetation could be seen as the plant cover of a region, they are consumable and renewable sources of food, medicines, fuels, clothing and shelter. Once this plant cover is removed or altered, it poses as a threat to the rainforest and natural environment through the exposing of the environment to vegetation degradation and other hazards.

          The geometric increase in population and altering of the environment through man’s anthropogenic activities have led to appreciable disturbance in the natural ecosystem of Abraka region, which in turn adversely affect the vegetation of Abraka. These activities of man could lead to environmental degradation, which in turn alters the rainforest vegetation in Abraka. This is so because, as the natural geographical setting and landscape of Abraka and its environs is rapidly replaced by an agglomeration and clustering of both planned and unplanned structures, its attendant consequences are enormous.

          The vegetation in any part of the world is under constant threat and disturbance by man, animals or disease. The disturbances created by man results in anthropogenic landscape. Anthropogenic vegetation is therefore, a vegetation, that has evolved as a result of human activities while these activities are ongoing, the vegetation struggles to come back to its former status but if these disturbances continue for a very long period of time, the area affected by these disturbances evolves its own type of vegetation. The vegetation that evolves depends on the length of the disturbances if the disturbance is very long in a tropical rainforest environment, the vegetation changes from its normal form to a derived Savanna landscape. The vegetation of a place has to be disturbed if man has to continue his activities on the landscape.

          The degree to which the vegetation of an area is affected can lead to the evolution of a particular type of vegetation man’s anthropogenic activities which involves urbanization has lead to species endangerment, habitat loss, extinction of biodiversities and vegetation degradation. There is urgent need to connect this situation to avoid extinction using the emerging urban area of Abraka and its vegetated surrounding rural areas as a case study, a research of this ecosystem shows that most of the urban areas and few buildings in form of linear settlement. The rate at which vegetation of the area is degrading is of primary concern and unless steps are taken to curtail this process, the vegetation of Abraka will eventually varnish with its diversity of species.

          Another serious problem affecting the sustainability of the rainforest vegetation and the natural ecosystem is soil erosion. Soil erosion remains the world’s biggest environmental problems affecting the rainforest vegetation as well as threatening the sustainability of systems, and thereby the security of their major components (Ndakara and Efe, 2010).  

          Soil erosion causes severe ecological degradation and leads to damage of buildings, infrastructures, land degradation and production of sediments. Very little have been done in the case of Abraka to reduce the negative impact of urbanization and soil erosion on the rainforest vegetation so as to introduce preservation. In light of the above mentioned problems, this study hereby seeks to address and proffer lasting solution (s) to the degradation of the vegetation resources in Abraka.

1.3     Aim and Objectives

          The aim of this study is to examine the effects of urbanization on rainforest vegetation characteristics in Abraka and its environs. Therefore, the specific objectives are to:

  1. Examine the various characteristics of vegetation within the study area;
  2. Identify the factors responsible for vegetation degradation in the area;
  3. Assess the extent to which the vegetation of Abraka has been degraded;
  4. Compare the secondary vegetation characteristics within those of the adjoining relics with the study area;
  5. Proffer possible management solutions to the degraded environment.

1.4     Research Questions

          The following research questions were answered in this study:

  1. What are the various characteristics of vegetation within the area?
  2. What are the factors responsible for vegetation degradation in the area?
  3. To what extent has the vegetation of Abraka been degraded?
  4. Do you agree that there is a significant difference between the secondary vegetation characteristics within those of the adjoining forest relics within the study area and those of other vegetation belts/
  5. What do you think are the possible management solutions to the degraded environment?

1.5     Research Hypothesis

          The following hypothesis formulated based on the aim and objectives of the study area will be tested in this research work. The hypothesis postulated is either accepted or rejected based on the outcome of the research findings.

  1. Urbanization has no significant effects on the rainforest vegetation of Abraka and its environs.
  2. There is no significant relationship between the various vegetation characteristics within the study area and the factors responsible for vegetation degradation in the area.
  3. The rainforest vegetation in Abraka has not been degraded over the years.

1.6     Significance of the Study

          The relevance of this research is on the overall quest to preserve the vegetation of the region and to checkmate the growing space of urbanization. The following are some of the benefits of this research;

  1. To present the need for our natural forest to be conserved and in cases where this proves difficult, to be managed.
  2. To slow down the acceleration process of urbanization so that vegetation and all its biodiversities can be conserved.
  3. To enlighten the urban dwellers on the need to reduce the rate at which trees are being filled or new trees (aforestation).
  4. To encourage the rural dwellers on how to preserve their natural environment through forest conservation practice and management.

1.7     Scope and Limitation of the Study

          The scope of this research tries to cover Abraka and its environs especially the surrounding rural areas which have natural forest vegetation. Emphasis is placed on the conservation of vegetation in the urban area in order to conserve the area’s biodiversity.

          The scope of the study was virtually designed to cover all the quarters and villages in Abraka region. However, because of time and financial constraints, the scope has been scaled down. In this regard, only selected quarters will be covered in this study, time as a factor has also hindered the carrying out of major research work due to academic work.

          These limitations notwithstanding the data generated from this study and research finding will be of invaluable assistance to the forest guards, ministry of environment both at the state and federal level, federal environmental protection Agency (FERA), National Emergence Management Agency (NEMA) and conservation management authorities to reduce the growth of urbanization which have degraded the natural vegetation of the environment.

1.8     Study Area

          The study area, Abraka is located in Ethiope East Local Government Area of Delta State and in the Niger Delta (South-south geopolitical zone) region of Nigeria. The description of the study area: Abraka will be done in the following sub-headings:

1.8.1  Location and Size

          The study area (Abraka) is located in Ethiope East Local Government Area of Delta State, Nigeria. It is situated in the Southern part of Nigeria which has abundant rainforest vegetation and its characterized by evergreen deciduous forest vegetation (Efe, 2006). The region lies approximately on latitudes 050 451N of the equator and longitudes 060 001E of the Greenwich meridian (Ufuoma, 2000). The study area (Abraka) covers a total land area of about 21.2 square kilometers (8.2 square mile) (Efe, 2006).

          The region (Abraka and its environs) is bounded by Orhiowon local government area of Edo State in the north, bounded on the east and south by Ukwani local government area and Ughelli North local government area of Delta state respectively and lastly it is bounded on the west by Ika local government area of Delta State (Akinbode and Ugbomeh, 2006).

          Abraka inner region consists of the sic (6) communities which make up the present day Abraka town. These communities are arranged generally in a North-East to south-west direction along River, Ethiope. They are Urhuoka, Oria, Ekrejeta, Otorho, Urhuokie, Erho and of course the present day Abraka P.O. Together, this constitute the declared planning urban areas of Abraka. Abraka consists of two (2) kingship and kingdom, one is located at Orharhivie-Abraka P.O, and the other at Oria-Umiaghwa, though they all relate and do thing together.



1.8.2  Climate

          Abraka is humid tropical climate with very high temperature between months of November and April. It may be as high as 290c to 250c between April and October. However, the annual range of temperature is low (between 30c and 50c). Rainfall throughout the year due to its location in the Niger Delta with monsoon wind continually blowing from the Atlantic Ocean. The apparent movement of the sun results into two seasons, the wet and dry season are noticeable with annual rainfall put between 2000mm to 3000mm for which the inter tropical discontinuity (ITD), a low pressure belt moves northward or southward of the equator. It lies to the North during rainy season (May to October) and southward during the dry season (November to April) where it draws North westerly dry winds harmattan wind and south easterly moisture laden wind respectively from the Atlantic Ocean. According to Alakpodia (2000), the mean annual rainfall recorded for coastal in Patani and Warri is around 3,200mm.

1.8.3  Vegetation

          The vegetation of the area is an evergreen forest and consist of three companies of trees the upper, middle and lower. The influence of man has reduced the forest mainly to secondary growth (deciduous vegetation). The major trees are Iroko, Obeche, Opepe which are raw materials sources of Timber in industries. From time immemorial, Abraka was covered with green scenery leaving areas occupied by water bodies. The vegetation was in its natural state, species diversity was abundant and there were pure stands of different trees with varying canopy heights. At that time, vegetation that belonged to the forest category possessed the features of a natural forest (Native vegetation that is relatively undisturbed). Trees grow to heights possible or attainable because the prevailing climatic conditions can allow it. They were known to grow in distinct layers with varying canopies.

          The present location of the university before it was brought to stay in 1972 was dominated engaged in oil producing, soda-soap production and broom production. Then, its was a common sight to see on rook tree around and not restricted to the river banks.

1.8.4  Relief and Drainage

          The topography of the area is a low plain with slope of ≤60 and it is drained by river Ethiope 9Ndakara and Abotutu, 2010). The relief falls under the lowlands of south-south and Western Nigeria. This area lies west pf Nger, its boundary is marked in the North by the edge of the basement complex rock of the Western highland and in the south by the quaternary deposits of the Coastal margin.

          The rocks are secondary and tertiary sedimentary which dig gently southward. Abraka region is under the Benin lowlands as seen by Udo (1978). There is a marked uniformity in the topography of Abraka, which even stretches up to Urhobo plains at Aghalopke. Going into Abraka inland (Otorho) which forms part of Urhobo division, there are several rivers such as River Ethiope and River Ovuwuvwe. River Ethiope drains the whole inland of Abraka and have several tributaries. The pattern of the flow of those rivers are dentritic in nature and empties their source from it, some of which dry out completely daring the dry season, there streams occur in areas where the soil is clayey.

1.8.5  Population and Urbanization Level in Abraka

          Starting with a given population of Abraka of 35,000 people (National Population Commission, 1991; Federal Bureau of Statistics, 20070 and growing annually at a rate of 3percent, the population of Abraka in 2006 of approximately 201,600 people (National Population Commission, 2006) exerted pressure on the vegetation cover exemplified by deforestation as demand for space increases in the face of competing needs. The population and urbanization level of Abraka since its declaration as an urban center in 2005 by the ministry of lands, survey and urban development, Abraka is a fast growing urban center attaining rapid urbanization. This is majorly due to the presence of the Delta State University, which is the major pull factor for this migration. Again rural-urban migration have no doubt mounted pressure on the available resources in the urban areas of study as the huge migration of people from neighbouring communities has resulted to the degradation of the natural environment. The struggle for improved facilities, available space, community series, social amenities coupled with rapid urbanization through building construction, road construction and others have in recent times destroyed the natural vegetation of Abraka which has led to a secondary regret. This is an evidence that urbanization to a great extent has a negative impact on rainforest vegetation. This is true to say as places previously considered as forest and sacred vegetated land are now the core growing urban environment covered with luxurious buildings due to rapid urbanization. It is therefore important to note here that if urbanization continues at this pace, a time will come where no trees will be found in Abraka region.   

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